As they age, older adults find themselves facing unique health challenges. Whether on their own or requiring in-home care services, by maintaining a healthy lifestyle, older adults can help prevent and control many of these issues, while improving their quality of life.
Optimal Health Guide
Health becomes a major focus as a person ages. The body ages and certain deficiencies appear. Though older adults may be free of disease, the natural ageing process can be quite challenging to overcome. Even so, a few simple things can be done to obtain and maintain optimal health.
Sticking to a healthy diet is a key component to maintaining health at any stage of life, but is especially important for older adults. A nutritious and balanced diet can help prevent common health problems like heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, obesity and many others.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services recommends the following foods and portions for people over 50:
- Up to 2½ cups of fruit
- Up to 3½ cups of vegetables
- 5 to 10 ounces (140 to 280 grams) of grains
- 5 to 7 ounces (140 to 200 grams) of protein
- 3 cups of dairy; and
- 5 to 8 teaspoons of oils.
Reducing the intake of sodium, fats and sugars is recommended. Older adults with health conditions such as diabetes or heart disease may need to follow different dietary requirements as directed by their physicians.
Complete the Nutrition for Older Adults Video Learning Activity for further learning!
Getting the proper amount of sleep at night is important. Older adults should be getting between seven and nine hours of sleep every night. Being well rested helps in lowering health risks and maintaining energy levels throughout the day.
A recent study conducted by the National Institute on Ageing suggests that nearly half of older adults over 60 experienced sleep issues. This lack of sleep can cause depression, irritability and decreased cognitive functioning.
While medications or other health issues can cause insomnia, there are things older adults can do to improve their sleeping habits. Sticking to a sleeping and waking schedule can help, as well as eliminating caffeine and other substances.
A study conducted by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute found that older adults who spent time being active outdoors experienced a higher quality of life.
By spending time outdoors, older adults are able to exercise, socialise with friends, meet new people and gain exposure to sunlight, which can increase levels of Vitamin D.
Getting outside and into the fresh air can prevent sleep disorders and other health conditions. It also improves cognitive function and physical mobility.
While social media is usually associated with younger generations, older adults can benefit immensely from social networking. A 2016 study from Michigan State University suggests that older adults that use social media and other social technologies have better physical and mental health outcomes than those that don’t.
Social media networking with family and friends prevent feelings of loneliness and depression by helping older adults to feel more connected with the world around them. Older adults who utilised new technology reported feeling more satisfied with life.
Current research indicates that exercising the brain through playing “brain games” and participating in other activities that stretch cognitive abilities can improve the processing power of the brain.
Apps and games like Luminosity and Sodoku puzzles provide entertainment while helping to improve cognitive abilities. Paired with physical exercise, brain exercises may help improve memory loss and mental processing speeds.
Maintaining mental health is an important element in maintaining physical health. Therefore, it is imperative that caregivers treat older adults with patience, respect and understanding. This ensures that older adults feel loved and maintain their mental and physical health.
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- Gelman, R n.d., ‘Getting Outside with Limited Mobility’, Ageing Care, viewed 21 March 2017, https://www.agingcare.com/articles/how-elders-with-mobility-problems-can-go-outside-more-easily-153728.htm
- Kerr, J, Marshall, S, Crist, K, Neukam, S, Wasilenko, K, Chen, J & Godbole, S 2012, ‘The Relationship Between Outdoor Activity and Health in Older Adults’, Active Living Research Annual Conference, March 2012, viewed 21 March 2017, http://activelivingresearch.org/relationship-between-outdoor-activity-and-health-older-adults
- Mental Health Foundation 2017, Physical Health and Mental Health, Mental Health Foundation, viewed 21 March 2017, https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/a-to-z/p/physical-health-and-mental-health
- Michigan State University 2016, ‘What Digital Divide? Seniors Embrace Social Technology’, Eureka Alert, 25 August, viewed 21 March 2017, https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2016-08/msu-wdd082516.php
- National Council on Ageing 2017, Healthy Eating Tips for Seniors, NCAA, viewed 21 March 2017, https://www.ncoa.org/economic-security/benefits/food-and-nutrition/senior-nutrition/
- National Institute of Ageing 2017, Healthy Eating After 50, NIH, viewed 21 March 2017, https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/publication/healthy-eating-after-50
- National Institute of Health 2017, A Good Night’s Sleep, NIH Senior Health, viewed 21 March 2017, https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/publication/good-nights-sleep
- National Institute of Health 2017, Eating Well as You Get Older, NIH Senior Health, viewed 21 March 2017, https://nihseniorhealth.gov/eatingwellasyougetolder/benefitsofeatingwell/01.html
- National Institute of Health 2017, Sleep and Ageing, NIH Senior Health, viewed 21 March 2017, https://nihseniorhealth.gov/sleepandaging/aboutsleep/01.html
- National Sleep Foundation 2017, Aging and Sleep, National Sleep Foundation, viewed 21 March 2017, https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-topics/aging-and-sleep
- Nutrition.gov 2017, viewed 21 March 2017, https://www.nutrition.gov/life-stages/seniors
- Retirement at Home 2016, ‘Let’s Get Outside: Why Fresh Air Matters’, Retirement at Home, viewed 21 March 2017, http://www.retireathome.com/get-seniors-outside-fresh-air-matters/
- The Dementia Centre 2012, The Importance of Getting Outside, DSDC, viewed 21 March 2017, http://dementia.stir.ac.uk/design/virtual-environments/importance-design/importance-getting-outside
- Visiting Angels 2017, viewed 21 March 2017, http://www.visitingangels.com/manassas/homecare-services
- Weir, K 2014, ‘Mind Games: Can brain-training games keep your mind young?’, Monitor on Psychology, vol. 45, no. 9, viewed 21 March 2017, http://www.apa.org/monitor/2014/10/mind-games.aspx
LeaAnn’s diverse background includes health education, cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation, and teaching at George Mason University. It was her 10 years of in-home personal care for a Prince William County resident that sealed her passion for the healthcare field. In November 2015, LeaAnn joined the team at Visiting Angels to coordinate marketing efforts to grow our family of caregivers and care recipients. LeaAnn values integrity and honour in relationship building and loves to laugh along the way.